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Hearing on noise ordinance next week

King George Supervisors will hold a public hearing on a new proposed noise ordinance at its meeting next week on Tuesday, May 7. The hearing has been advertised for 6:45 p.m.

The draft ordinance can be viewed in the County Administrator’s office on the second floor of the Revercomb Building or can also be found online at the county website in the agenda packet for the meeting of the Board of Supervisors for April 2. That was when the draft ordinance was provided for review by county attorney Eric Gregory.  

The proposed ordinance is primarily based on decibel levels, but it also addresses such things as habitually barking dogs and other frequent or repeated noise. The draft also contains some important exceptions and exemptions.

PROHIBITED NOISE GENERALLY
The proposed ordinance would make it unlawful for anyone to create any noise or sound which exceeds the decibel level of 75 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. It further proposes it to be unlawful to create noise which exceeds the decibel level of 65 during the night-time of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

But those decibel levels could be adjusted prior to any adoption, along with the hours indicated.  

LOBUGLIO & BRABO OFFER COMMENTS
At a meeting on April 16 two supervisors volunteered comments about the proposal during their board comments, with both Ruby Brabo and John LoBuglio giving their views.

LoBuglio stated that he had told the owners of two restaurants at Fairview Beach, Tim’s 2 and Rick’s, that he “might possibly discuss for the proposed ordinance to changing the daytime limit until 11 p.m. or even 12 a.m., if there was interest.”

The two restaurants are actually located in Maryland since they are in the Potomac River. LoBuglio also said he assured some residents of the small community that the proposed ordinance is not directed at them, “nor any other individual sector of the county.”

He also said he and someone who had a decibel meter measured the noise level of a couple of bands, saying they all fell within a reading about 60-65 decibels.

At the same meeting, Brabo stated that she had requested and received decibel readings at her own home performed by a county Sheriff’s Deputy. She said she had wanted to test decibel levels emanating from her house, “while my husband played his electric guitar and my daughter played her drums in our living room.”

She said with her windows open, the decibel reading outside at her property line was 50 decibels, adding, “My husband was happy that he doesn’t have to turn down his guitar.”

It is unclear whether such tests will be made for any residents requesting service at their homes by King George Sheriff’s department personnel.

Brabo also noted that she had received a number of emails related to the draft ordinance. She stated, “I have found it interesting that some who have written opposing the noise ordinance do not reside in King George County.” It’s not known if she was referring to the owners of restaurants in Fairview Beach of which LoBuglio had spoken.

Brabo said she thanked them for their comments, adding, “It is the residents of this County who need to provide me with feedback regarding their wishes.”

PROHIBITED NOISE SPECIFICALLY
In addition to loud noises in general as noted above, the proposed ordinance also addresses barking dogs and other such frequent or repeated noises.

It would make it a violation to have one or more dogs or other animals that “frequently or habitually” bark or make other “noise as is plainly audible across property boundaries or through partitions common to two dwellings within a building,” and that take place continuously or repeatedly during a period of at least 15 minutes between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. or for at least 10 minutes between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The only exception to those specific noises would be if the animal noise is from property that is subject to a special exception permit for a commercial kennel or a conditional use permit for a public animal shelter.   

In addition to annoying animal noises, the section of the draft ordinance called, “Prohibited Noise Specifically” also states, “that this list shall not be deemed to be an exclusive enumeration of those acts which may constitute noise disturbances and that an act not listed” may nevertheless constitute “a violation of this section, regardless of the time the act occurs.”

EXCEPTIONS & EXEMPTIONS
The sounds of booming gun testing or other noises from the Naval Base at Dahlgren or other military installations, along with any other noise created by any governmental activity, are lawful and are included as exceptions in the new noise ordinance, as in the old one.

Exceptions would include such things as alarms for the purpose of alerting people to an emergency, emergency work, and sirens made by any emergency vehicle, along with the lawful discharge of firearms and noise caused by activities related to the repair and maintenance of public utility systems and roads. Also exempted would be noise generated during county or permitted ceremonies, parades, and sanctioned outdoor sporting events, and from sound from events “conducted, authorized, or permitted by the Department of Parks & Recreation and School Division.”

The provisions of the proposed ordinance would also continue to exempt noise caused by agricultural, horticultural and silvicultural activities, including sawmills, under the Virginia Right to Farm Act, as long as the noise is produced between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The same time frames would also apply to public or permitted ceremonies, celebrations, parades, sporting and other events being lawful between those hours.

There may be a couple of things to iron out. For example, sporting events is mentioned twice, the second time without any qualifications as being “public and/or permitted” and without any time frame considerations. Questions might also arise about an exemption for sound produced from “private landfills.”

ENFORCEMENT & MEASUREMENT
Enforcement of the ordinance would be through complaints made to the King George Sheriff’s Office or by the Virginia State Police.

The measurement of the noise would be by the use of properly calibrated decibel meters made at the property boundary or at any point within the receiving property affected by the noise, or at the closest point of public or permitted access to the property from which the noise is generated.

PENALTIES
Civil fines of $250 would be assessed for a first offense, with $500 assessed for a second offense within a one-year period. A third offense within a year would constitute a Class 2 misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense, and the offender would be subject to those penalties applicable under state law. Those violations could draw higher fines with possible jail time.

Phyllis Cook

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